The Vanity Game by HJ Hampson – review

HJ Hampson seems to lay her filthy cards out on the table awfully quick in her debut novel The Vanity Game but don’t be fooled – there’s more than one ace up her sleeve in this motherfucker.

After a few pages it’s pretty clear that her main character, soccer superstar Beaumont Alexander, is a real douche, a raging id made only more rage-ified after a few lines and a pair of tits are placed in front of him.  After a couple more chapters, wherein he rapes a waitress at a glitzy party and murders his pop star girlfriend during an argument, he’s become more monster than douche.

This set up seems to imply that The Vanity Game will be the classic noir story of a hugely flawed guy trying to keep his life in check following a murder and body disposal , the guy fighting off blackmailers and nosy detectives with only his frazzled wits (think early, glorious period Jason Starr), the twist being that he’s a paparazzi-hounded celebrity to boot.  But though the first act has all the makings of a book I desperately want to read, Hampson tweaks it as we edge into act two, making this as much a crazy conspiracy thriller as it is classic noir descent-into-guilt-and-madness type of thing.

I don’t want to get too far into the conspiracy shit as that will spoil a good bit of the fun of The Vanity Game, a gleefully nasty satire of celebrity culture with plenty of drugs, sex, booze, and dead bodies to satisfy any good, thin-blooded basement noir junkie.  Hampson’s got Beaumont’s voice down cold, a guy more arrogant and entitled than you could ever hope for, yet is never annoying to the reader.  He also does some, you know, fucking terrible things yet still has our ear if not often our hearts.  The chance to both get our vicarious jollies from and laugh at the shallowness of Beaumont is the real reason to pick up The Vanity Room, Hampson letting us do some reveling and reviling in equal measure with this privileged playboy.

So you’ve got a hugely compelling main character at the center of a fast-paced book that’s part downward spiral noir, celebrity satire, and paranoia thriller.  If that cocktail doesn’t sound like your kind of night on the town then, well, stay off the streets you prude ‘cuz this block party’s strictly for the fucking depraved!

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Nerd of Noir

I love crime/noir fiction, comics and movies. I think my opinions are web-worthy. Then again, what asshole doesn't think that their opinions deserve a blog?

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1 comment for “The Vanity Game by HJ Hampson – review

  1. June 30, 2012 at 6:45 am

    It sounds like mine. Thanks. And perfect with the cup final tomorrow.

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